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US Department of Homeland Security Revamps Blue Campaign Initiative
Written by Melissa Blackerby, ECPAT-USA Intern
On June 5, the US Department of Homeland Security officially relaunched The Blue Campaign, which focuses on preventing human trafficking in the United States.
Since its creation in 2010, the Blue Campaign has worked in both the private and public sectors to prevent human trafficking. A spokesperson from DHS explained the initiative; “The Blue Campaign is the unified voice for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to combat human trafficking. Working in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, Blue Campaign strives to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.”
Through its partnership with these agencies, The Blue Campaign strives to prevent human trafficking through intensive training sessions for the agencies’ employees. This training gives employees insight on how to accurately identify trafficking victims and effectively handle any situation involving human trafficking. In addition, the agencies also formed several anti-trafficking coordination teams (ACTeams), which specialize in investigations and prosecutions in human trafficking cases. These ACTeams include members of the FBI, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, and several other influential organizations.
A significant component of the Blue Campaign’s educational initiative is the development of an online training program for law enforcement officers. As of early 2013, six states have included the training program into their system.
The Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection also collaborated on developing a training program specific for companies in the travel industry. This program, called the Blue Lightning Initiative, is a voluntary course for airline personnel. So far, several airline companies have committed to adapting this training for their employees. Delta Air Lines was among the first to implement the program.
“It is very exciting to see the private sector partnering with the United States government to identify victims of trafficking,” said Michelle Guelbart, Private Sector Project Coordinator of ECPAT-USA. “Training employees on the signs of human trafficking is a great start for companies in becoming responsible brands. These training and awareness resources will encourage more companies to step up and strengthen their programming to fight trafficking.” ECPAT-USA has been partnering with the travel industry to implement programs and policies to mitigate the risk of child sex trafficking since 2004, when Carlson Companies signed the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct.
Since its formation three years ago, the Blue Campaign has made significant strides to prevent human trafficking. However, these past initiatives have dealt primarily with professional settings, focusing on training those who could be directly involved with a case of trafficking as a part of their job. Because human trafficking is a widespread issue that is steadily growing in prominence, it is possible that anybody could be privy to a situation involving trafficking or a trafficking victim. Therefore, it is imperative that the general public be aware of the horrors of trafficking and be armed with the knowledge needed to stop it. DHS has recognized the demand for a stronger public campaign to increase societal awareness of the issue and has responded with the implementation of a newly redesigned website for the Blue Campaign. The official Blue Campaign website now features a new logo, mission statement, and web design to better communicate the campaign’s objective.
One interesting and attention-grabbing component of the newly redesigned Blue Campaign website is the Human Trafficking Awareness Training program, an interactive educational course that can be accessed by the public. The training can also be printed for future reference or distribution.
In addition to its Internet-based initiatives, the DHS has taken a more traditional approach to its campaign by issuing posters, tip sheets, and public service announcements to ensure a balanced presence on both the physical and digital spheres.
One of the new posters refers specifically to sex trafficking. It features the image of a young-looking girl with the powerful slogan “Lured by fairy tale promises, she learned not every prince is charming.”
The public response to the campaign’s relaunch has been overwhelmingly positive.
New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney expressed her support for the new initiative, “I applaud the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Janet Napolitano for expanding the Blue Campaign, which aims to raise awareness of and prevent the horrors of human trafficking. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and we need to use every tool at our disposal to eradicate this terrible scourge. I welcome the Blue Campaign’s efforts to unite government, law enforcement, private organizations and the public in the fight to stamp out human trafficking.” Congresswoman Maloney is well known as a prominent advocate in the fight against the commercial sexual exploitation of children, having contributed to much legislation on the issue.
The new website for the Blue Campaign can be accessed on the Department of Homeland Security official website at http://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/.